Liverpool suffered their second defeat in three games as they fell to a late 1-0 loss away to Napoli in their second group stage clash in the Champions League.
Napoli 1-0 Liverpool
Champions League Group Stage, Stadio San Paolo
October 3, 2018
Insigne 90′ (assist – Callejon)
Liverpool headed into their 10th game of the campaign in near-perfect condition, having won seven, drawn one and lost just one in their previous nine outings.
That had left them level on points with Premier League leaders Man City and, after beating Paris Saint-Germain in their opening fixture, top of Group C in the Champions League.
Meanwhile, Napoli’s 0-0 draw with Red Star Belgrade presented an early setback for the Azzurri, but Carlo Ancelotti ensured his side were fired up for a high-profile clash at Stadio San Paolo.
Boosted by a near fully fit squad, Jurgen Klopp made one change from Saturday’s 1-1 draw with Chelsea, in a bid to extend the gap between them and their European rivals.
The Reds were challenged by a vocal Curva Sud, and failed to respond as they delivered a limp display in Italy.
- Klopp makes one change as Keita replaces Henderson
- Keita stretchered off with back injury after just 19 minutes
- Reds toothless in attack as Alisson, Van Dijk & Gomez shine
- Late Insigne strike seals victory for Napoli
- PSG thrash Red Star 6-1 in early kickoff, but Napoli top Group C
Carlo Ancelotti made an interesting tactical decision from the off, fielding centre-back Nikola Maksimovic at right-back, giving Sadio Mane a clear opening on the flank if he failed to settle.
It was Napoli’s left winger who had the first real opportunity, with Lorenzo Insigne peeling off Trent Alexander-Arnold after a mixup in midfield and firing his effort just wide of Alisson‘s far post.
The Reds were dealt an early blow in terms of personnel as Naby Keita sunk to the turf with a back injury, forcing Klopp into an early change as Jordan Henderson took over.
Henderson took to the field with real urgency, and provided an upgrade on the Guinean who looked to have been struggling from the offset.
But neither side truly threatened throughout a mixed first half, and they went into the break with the scores level.
Napoli emerged from the tunnel for the second half with renewed vigour, and Alisson was required to make saves to deny both Arkadiusz Milik and Fabian Ruiz.
Milik had a great chance on the hour mark, but was thwarted by a brilliant lunging block from Alexander-Arnold, who was otherwise struggling at right-back.
Ancelotti prompted a change of approach with 20 minutes left to play, as he sent on both Dries Mertens and Simone Verdi to give Napoli an added edge in attack—meanwhile, Klopp stayed patient.
David Ospina needed to be inch-perfect coming off his line as Roberto Firmino threaded a pass through for Mane, with the ex-Arsenal goalkeeper getting to the ball just before Liverpool’s No. 10.
Mertens almost made his world-class quality count as he steamed onto a Mario Rui cross from the left, but the Belgian, who took advantage of a moment of weakness from Alisson, struck the bar.
Klopp made a late roll of the dice as he sent on Daniel Sturridge for Mane, but the winner came at the other end, with Insigne sliding home as Liverpool lost concentration.
TIA Man of the Match: Joe Gomez
Referee: Viktor Kassai (HUN)
Napoli: Ospina; Maksimovic, Abiol, Koulibaly, Rui; Allan, Fabian (Verdi 68′), Hamsik (Zielinski 81′); Callejon, Insigne, Milik (Mertens 68′)
Subs not used: Karnezis, Hysaj, Diawara, Rog
Liverpool: Alisson; Alexander-Arnold, Gomez, Van Dijk, Robertson; Wijnaldum, Milner (Fabinho 76′), Keita (Henderson 19′); Salah, Mane (Sturridge 88′), Firmino
Subs not used: Mignolet, Lovren, Moreno, Shaqiri
Next Match: Man City (H) – Premier League – Sunday, October 7 – 4.30pm